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Tom Niblett
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Email: press.office@naht.org.uk 

 

School leaders call for fair funding for schools in Wales, as impact of Covid staff absence revealed

NAHT Cymru reveals extent and costs of staff absences due to Covid

Calls for “fully and fairly-funded education system in Wales”

Will work with Welsh Local Government Association for a “fully-funded pay-uplift”

Today (Fri 29 Apr), delegates from school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru are gathering at the association’s national Annual conference in Telford. Members from the Welsh branches will lay out their vision for the future of education across the country; debating key objectives on curriculum and assessment, ALN reform, accountability, wellbeing and funding.

Education in Wales continues to suffer from a funding crisis and NAHT Cymru will today demand that every school have a sustainable core budget that ensures effective teaching and learning for all needs can occur.  Resources must be available to support frontline teaching and learning; the delivery of the new curriculum and implementation of the new ALN system.

Conference will also hear that whilst teachers in Wales have benefitted from a 1.75% pay uplift, in spite of a UK government public sector pay freeze, these costs have fallen unfairly on schools and local authority areas. School leaders are calling on the Welsh government to fully commit to the pay uplift being properly funded.

Kerina Hanson, President of NAHT Cymru, said: “It has been a tough couple of years for schools but our leaders have not hesitated to step up on behalf of our learners. It’s vital that they are offered the same support from government in return – especially as we enter the next phase of reform and recovery. Schools are under immense pressure – the government needs to do more to support them or it risks the system breaking down.”

NAHT Cymru is also today publishing the results of a survey of its members investigating the number of primary school staff with covid-related absences.

On average, in the twenty school day period between February 28th and March 25th, respondents told us that they had an average of 4 teachers, 6 teaching assistants and 3 other staff absent.

The average daily cost to cover a teacher is £169, teaching assistant cover costs £78, while other staff cover can be in the region of £50 per day.

With 1,200 primary schools alone in Wales, it is clear that these costs will quickly spiral into the tens of thousands of pounds.

In secondary schools and special schools, the cost is much harder to calculate given the vast numbers of staff, subject-specific teachers that are needed as well as specialist support staff.

Up until the end of March, schools could claim staff cover costs from the Local Government Hardship Fund. The Welsh Government also put an additional 9% of funding into Local Authorities (2022/23) through the Revenue Support Grant to cover, amongst other budget pressures, the ongoing costs of covid - However many schools report that covid-related cover costs have not been factored into the statutory budget-setting discussions and fear that existing budgets are going to be swallowed up by supply fees.

Laura Doel, Director at NAHT Cymru, said: “Schools simply cannot sustain this financial burden from existing budgets. At best schools have insurance that could possibly cover long-term staff absence, but many schools’ policies don’t kick in until after five or ten days or only cover teachers and not other staff, even those schools will still have to pick up the significant short-term costs.

“School leaders are having to step back into the classroom to cover classes in a bid to save money.  Even if the schools had the money, they are struggling to find supply cover.

“What we want to see is more than recognition from the Welsh Government, Local Authorities, Consortia and Estyn that covid continues to have a real impact on schools. We want to see more action being taken to ease the pressure. There is no way schools can be expected to operate as ‘normal’ and keep up with the ambitious education reform agenda when many are still operating in crisis mode.”

The motions and debates taking place at NAHT’s Annual Conference in Telford can be viewed remotely via livestream at https://www.facebook.com/NAHTnews/

Full list of the NAHT Cymru motions to be debated by conference this weekend:

Accountability in Wales: The development of an accountability structure for Wales that supports the reformed curriculum and 21st century learning. That Wales requires no further expansion, layers or additional bodies that take limited funding and resource away from the core purpose of schools and front-line education. Proposer: (Swansea branch)

Funding of pay awards in Teachers in Wales: NAHT Cymru calls on National Executive to work with the Welsh Local Government Association to commit to a fully-funded uplift and not pass on this financial burden to schools in some local authority areas and for Welsh government to use its influence to ensure its promise is kept. Proposer: (Conwy branch)

Additional Learning Needs (ALN) Reform: Conference calls to lobby Welsh government and local authorities to recognise that for ALN reform to succeed, there must be a significant investment in training and support for schools to manage the change and wide-ranging needs that schools support. (Wrexham branch) 

Funding in Wales Education in Wales: Conference calls on National Executive to press for: a fully and fairly-funded education system in Wales informed by a fit for purpose formula mechanism in order to ensure transparency and equity for all,

Curriculum reform in Wales: To lobby the Welsh government to relieve the pressure on schools by providing clarity and clear expectations for schools around what is required for their journey to curriculum 2022 by September 2022; to prioritise the evaluation of the link between new exam qualifications and curriculum development. (Caerphilly branch)

The impact of covid-19 and the future of education: Vision for 21st century schools in Wales: Pledge to listen to the profession around the ongoing covid response, giving schools time to support the needs of learners along with adequate and timely multi-agency provision for those learners that require additional support. Commit to ensure the success of current curriculum and ALN reform before any further reform is introduced. (NAHT Cymru)

First published 29 April 2022